The Sister Paradox is the winner of the Epic Award for Best Fantasy Novel
Liam Doesn't Have A Sister...And She's Weird!
Liam is his parents' only child, and that's just fine with him.
Until the day the sister-he-never-had shows up at school.
Just to make it worse, the sword-wielding Kari tells him they have an important quest to complete.
And that's how Liam finds himself dragged into another world, facing basilisks and unicorns, cursed objects, elves, and even a dragon, all magical and dangerous, but none more so than the sister he didn't have until that morning. A sister who turns out to be quite good with her sword, and ready to use it when faced with things like a dragon as long as her brother is at her side.
Liam begins to realize two things: it's going to be a very long day, and having a sister can be weird.
But most unsettling of all, he's not sure he minds…
"Adult author Campbell (the Wrath of the Great Guilds) makes a foray into YA with a breezy contemporary fantasy. […] It's a light, zippy escapade."– Publisher’s Weekly
"This was a light and breezy fantasy story that kept me turning pages."– David Lee Summers, award-winning author
"Readers who enjoy Narnia, Oz, and other portal fantasies where characters from our world visit fantasy lands will also feel right at home."– SFRevu
Sister, What Sister?
With death on four legs and two wings heading straight for me, I finally turned to run, but slipped on the loose rocks and bare dirt on the edge of the large hollow. I caught a brief sideways glimpse of the charred, dead trees standing bare-limbed around the hollow as I landed on my shoulder, then I started cart-wheeling down the slope accompanied by a shower of rocks, pebbles, and dust. The slope seemed a lot longer than it had looked, but that was probably because I was picking up fresh bruises with every bounce on the way down. Finally, I slid to a stop at the bottom, accompanied by a pile of rubble and a cloud of dust that kept choking me while I tried to make the world stop going around in dizzy circles.
I'd just about managed to stop coughing and start seeing straight again when the dragon I'd been trying to run away from in the first place came slamming down to earth a few feet from me. Yeah, that's right, a dragon. The earth quivered with the impact, making the little collection of rocks and pebbles I'd brought down the slope with me jump around like they were panicking. The bones of those unfortunate enough to have gotten here well before me, carpeting the bottom of the hollow, also quivered as if given a few more seconds of life to be afraid. Up close, the dragon looked even bigger than I'd first thought, especially when it hissed and spread its jaws really wide. I hadn't managed to get up, but I tried to backpedal away. The dragon took two steps and stood right over me, jaws gapping.
If you're like me you've probably played one of those video games that claims to be totally realistic. Don't believe it. Having a real dragon standing over you with its jagged teeth dripping saliva is very, very different from whatever thrills you get out of a game. If there'd been an escape key, I'd have been punching it like crazy.
The dragon reared back a little and prepared to chow down on me. I stared at it, unable to move or think of any way out of this mess.
Did I mention that I wouldn't be in this mess if it wasn't for my sister?
Did I mention that I don't have a sister?
I guess I should start at the beginning. Like, this morning.
There's two things you have to know about me right from the start. First, my name is Liam. Liam Eagan. Second, I'm 16 years old. Third…okay, three things. Third, I don't have a sister. Or a brother. I'm the only kid in the family, the only kid my mother and father have ever had. It's been that way all my life, and it hasn't been all that bad. I mean, sometimes I'd wish I had a brother to toss a ball back and forth with or something like that, but I had friends I could hang around with instead. I never wished I had a sister. No way. Never.
There are advantages to being an only kid. No competition, for one thing. No fighting for the bathroom, or having someone else pawing my stuff, or complaining that they wanted something else to eat tonight when I wanted pizza. No one else asking Mom and Dad for expensive, but important junk. Just me.
This morning started off as usual. I lay in bed awhile after the alarm went off, took my time getting ready because I knew I wouldn't have anyone else hogging the bathroom, and slid down the stairs and into the kitchen with just enough time to spare.
Mom was already there, going over some stuff related to her job selling real estate. She gave me a quick glance. "About time you got down here. You're going to be late for school."
"No way," I assured her while I pulled out a box of cereal.
"Yes, way. Hurry your breakfast, mister," Mom ordered me.
I shrugged and dug in the cereal box until I had a handful, then shoveled it into my mouth before answering. "Okay, okay," I mumbled around my mouthful.
She gave me that look that moms get sometimes. "Nice. What happens when someone else in this house wants to eat that cereal?"
"You told me to hurry up, and nobody else in this house eats that cereal," I pointed out, quite reasonably I thought. "You eat that twigs-and-bark stuff and Dad just has coffee."
"That's not the point," Mom informed me. "Besides, what if we had a guest?"
That reminded me. "Hey, speaking of that, when can I have the spare bedroom?"
Mom looked baffled, though I couldn't imagine why. "The spare bedroom? You want to move into the spare bedroom?"
"I want the spare bedroom, yeah."
"What's wrong with your bedroom?"
She waited as if thinking I needed to say something else, then sort of frowned at me. "Why do you want to move out of your bedroom and into the spare bedroom?" Mom said the words really slowly as if she thought I'd have trouble understanding them.
"I don't. I don't want the spare bedroom as a bedroom." Mom just kept waiting, so I explained even though it should've been obvious. "I need a place to hang out. You know, a room where I can play video games and music and stuff with my friends."
"You mean like your bedroom."
"No! Give me a break, Mom. I need another room for that stuff."
She just leaned back and stared at me. Finally, after several seconds, Mom shook her head. "Just what makes you think you can have two bedrooms for yourself?"
"Because there's no one else using it." Which was perfectly true. I didn't see how Mom could argue with that. "And it's not like you and Dad are doing anything with it."
Mom buried her face in her hands for a moment, I guess while she thought about what I'd said. "And where would guests stay when they come here?"
"There's that new hotel a few miles away."
She raised her face and stared at me again. "You want our guests to shell out money for a hotel and drive several miles back and forth to see us each day while you use the spare bedroom to do things you can do perfectly well in your own bedroom?"
The way Mom said it made it sound like I was being unreasonable. "If it's all that big a deal—"
"It's that big a deal." Mom leaned forward. "Hello, Earth to Mr. Liam Eagan. Have I got your attention? Listen carefully. You are not the only person in the world."
I knew that. "I know that!"
"You won't be getting the spare bedroom to use as a playroom. Forget it."
"All right, all right!" Obviously, I'd have to work on this a bit before Mom and Dad gave in. "But when we get the new TV—"
"Mister, you've got plenty of toys as it is."
Calling my stuff toys was not cool, but it did remind me of something. "Oh, yeah, I also need a new phone."
"A new phone?" Mom shook her head. "The one you've got is less than a year old."
"It's eight months old! There's a new model out with better memory! If I want to use the newest apps I need—"
"You don't need anything, Liam," Mom interrupted. "You want more stuff."
Oh, here it comes. The lecture about kids starving in Sudan, like that has anything to do with me.
But the clock in the living room bonged, causing Mom to check the time and dash for the door. "Don't be late for school!"
"No problem." And it wasn't. I've got the walk timed down to the second. I slid through the school door just before the bell rang.
James Rowland, my best friend, socked my shoulder. "Dude."
"Dude. Looking forward to playing Demon Disaster in death match mode after school?"
James shook his head. "Nah. Sorry."
"No?" I made a grabbing gesture toward him with both hands. "No? We've been planning this since Monday, remember?"
"I know, I know." James waved my hands away. "I'm stuck at home watching my little bro."
"Can't you ditch him?"
"He's three years old. He needs me. My parents are counting on me to watch him."
"So? We made plans!"
James shook his head again. "Sorry. If you had a brother or sister you might understand. Listen, you can come over to my place—"
"You don't have the latest game console! And your little brother would be nagging at us! How am I supposed to have fun while you—?"
"Look, we have to get together somehow to go over those book reports."
I hauled my mind away from sulking about no dual-Demon Disaster play tonight. "Book reports?"
"Yeah." James squinted at me like he wasn't sure I was serious. "Liam, the book reports are due tomorrow. We agreed we'd do the same book, that I'd read the first half of the book and you'd read the second half, and then we'd get together to write our reports."
"Oh, yeah. That was the report on…"
"Genghis Juan Feinstein and the Steam-Powered Airship of Senteri!"
"Dude, that book is huge! I thought it'd be a graphic novel! When did I agree to this deal?"
"About three weeks ago!"
Like I'm supposed to remember something I said three weeks ago? "I'll look something up on the web. Some, uh, notes or something—"
James interrupted me, looking seriously upset. "You know Mr. Weedle checks our stuff online to see if it's been copied! You know he insists on details from the books that aren't in online sources so he can be sure we read the books! How could you be so lame? You promised me, man!"
"I don't remember saying—Look, I'll get it read, and I'll call you tonight early enough so we can both get the reports done. Happy?"
"You're almost done reading your half?" James asked.
"Uh, yeah." What's two hundred pages of small type? I could skim through that in, say, half an hour. "I'll call you by…eight o'clock and—"
"Eight o'clock? Try seven."
"That won't leave me much play time before I start my homework," I complained.
James's face got a little red as he answered me. "Dude, sometimes the world does not revolve around you."
I should have known the rest of the day was going to be strange when my best friend started sounding like my mom. "What's that supposed to mean?" I asked as we walked to English class. It's not like James had put himself out when something important like playing a new game with me was involved.
Just then Tina Noe went by and I perked up real fast. "Hey!"
She glanced at me, then away. "Hey, yourself."
"Uh…" But Tina was already heading down the hall while I stood there trying to think of something cool to say.
"Wow," James whispered to me sarcastically, "she is so into you."
"She just has to get to know me better."
"She does know you."
"What does that mean?"
"You don't spend a lot of time worrying about other people, you know," James replied, apparently still steamed at me over the game thing and the book report thing.
"I do, too!" I tried to think of some examples, but we reached the classroom before I came up with any.
I wanted to forget all about the book report, but Mr. Wheedle started English class by reminding everyone about it. Like I needed another reminder. Then he said if anyone needed extra time we should let him know now.
I could feel James looking at me, but I sort of shook my head and stared at my desk. We could get it done. Probably. I mean, the report wasn't due until tomorrow, so dealing with any problems could wait until tomorrow, couldn't it? And maybe something would happen like Mr. Weedle being sick or me being sick, or whatever. Never stick your neck out if you don't have to. That's what I always say.
In English we started learning about something called splitting infinitives, which sounded like it might be fun to do, especially since Mr. Weedle said some grammarians insisted we weren't supposed to do it. But it just turned out to be something about organizing sentences, which is boring if you ask me, and Weedle said it was okay with him if we did it, so what was the point?
Boring, by the way, is Mr. Weedle's specialty. You've probably heard of teachers who can make any subject exciting and interesting. Mr. Weedle is sort of the anti-matter version of that. He could make anything boring. It wasn't really his fault, I guess. The tests force all the English teachers to go over the same old books chosen by a bunch of people who think reading doesn't count unless you have to force kids to do it.
So instead of worrying about obscure grammar rules and about society in a small town in 18th century England, I was thinking about what size TV to put in the spare bedroom when my parents gave in. But then one of the school office assistants stuck her head into the classroom. "Liam Eagan?"
Everybody looked at me, while I tried to think of anything I might've done lately. Or something I maybe didn't do and should've done. Aside from the book report thing, that is. Then Mr. Weedle pointed at me.
The office assistant made a "come here" gesture. "You're needed in the office." I started to get up. "Bring all of your books."
This looked bad, but I had no trouble looking confused instead of guilty, because was I sure hadn't done anything. James had gotten over his attitude enough to give me a worried 'what'd you do?' look, but all I could do was shrug to say I didn't know as I gathered my books up and dumped them into my backpack. The office assistant waited, tapping one finger on her arm impatiently until I got to the door, then led the way toward the office.
She led me right through the outside waiting area. I was so worked up by this time that I didn't even notice if anyone was in there. We went directly back to the principal's office, where the assistant knocked, looked in, then waved me in and closed the door behind me.
Ms. Emily Faith Meyer was the sort of woman kids did not mess with. She had this way of pinning you where you stood with her eyes, so that you felt she was reading your thoughts and knew everything you had ever dreamed of doing wrong. She sat there at her desk and frowned at me so hard that I wanted to yell "I didn't do it" even though I had no idea what "it" was.
Finally, she pointed to her phone. "We haven't been able to contact your mother or your father, Mr. Eagan."
That happens. "Mom usually keeps her cell on, but when she's doing real estate stuff she sometimes goes places where she can't get signal or has to shut off the phone. And Dad's on a business trip out of town."
"I see. Since we've been unable to contact your parents," Ms. Meyer paused as if trying to prolong my agony, "you'll have to take your sister home."
Have you ever heard something that's so completely strange that the words just don't make sense'? This was like that. I heard everything Ms. Meyer said, every word as clear as a bell, and I couldn't understand it at all. Ms. Meyer looked at me, waiting for me to say something, so finally I just said, "Excuse me?"
"I said that you'll have to take your sister home."
"My…sister? Ms. Meyer, I don't have a sister."
"Mr. Eagan, I don't have time for games. You will take your younger sister home. This is for your mother." Ms. Meyer held out a sealed envelope. I knew what that was. I'd seen them, but never gotten one. Oh, man, Kari would really catch it when Mom saw that envelope.
Kari? Where had that come from? I didn't know anyone named Kari. "Ms. Meyer, I really don't—"
"Come along." I didn't have any choice but to follow Ms. Meyer into the waiting area.
And there she was, jumping up from a chair and smiling at me like she hadn't done anything. "Liam? You are Liam! Greetings to you, dearest brother!"
"Kari?" How did I know her name? How did I know her? I'd never seen her before. But as I stared at her, my mouth hanging open, I also knew that she was my sister. Which was crazy, because I didn't have a sister, but there she was standing in front of me, looking like somebody who had just left a Renaissance Faire or Live Action Role Playing game.